It’s been a while since I wrote in here – one of the reasons is I’ve been caught up in a flurry of building (details below) – but since busyness is no excuse I think the other factor is a lack of actually committing to a regular writing practice. I read somewhere that most new blogs fizzle out within 3 months. This is not going to be one of those blogs! So I hereby make a promise to myself that I will write in here at least once a week. No matter what!
Right, onto the meat of this post: for the last few weeks I’ve had someone helping me build a cottage/art studio/storage shed (though left out the ‘cottage’ and ‘art studio’ part when submitting the council application as they have very strict and onerous rules about what’s fit for human occupation). My friend/ex flew over from Perth to help me as we were both worried about how I would go living in the caravan over winter – it can get down to -6C here. Okay, I know if you’re reading this in one of those countries where it gets really cold you probably have no sympathy! In my defence though, by Australian standards Tassie is about as cold as it gets. And I’ve spent most of my life in Perth where it gets up to 45C in the summer so I have some acclimatising to do.
Anyway, Gazza came over and we designed a little building of 6m by 4m to be raised off the ground on posts set in concrete. Digging the foundations was unbelievably hard work, as my soil is made up of very, very heavy clay. The kind of smooth, dense, glossy clay that we used when I took a pottery wheel class at Adult Ed. Long story short, I hired a post hole digger for the weekend, but it was only useful for the first 20cm and the holes had to be at least 40cm deep. So the rest was dug with a combination of Gazza driving a crowbar into the rock-solid clay, and me scooping out the broken soil with a bowl.
Finally all 15 post holes were dug and we were able to concrete the stirrups in place for the stumps to rest on. Gazza then took AGES to build the floor (he thought it would take 2 days, it took a week) and then I took some time off work and helped him build the wall frame and the roof trusses. We ran out of time to clad the roof and walls, so I’ve ended up hiring some guys to do it.
As I drove to work yesterday I was thinking that it’s been a while since I felt so tested by something in my life as this owner building caper. Still, as many difficult times as I experience, there are just as many rewards. The feeling of satisfaction that in 6 months I have managed to put in a road, prepare the house site, get my plans approved for council and nearly finish building a cottage to live in. The many moments I am on the block and see such beauty in the landscape – the patterns of cloud and mist on the purple mountains, the tiny flowering plants, the wildlife of echidnas, wallabies, bettongs, heaps of birds and insect species.
It could go either way – the blind optimism I had when I first moved here has been tempered a bit by the realities of building, and the realities of undertaking a project like this by myself. But I have faith that, somehow, it is all going to work out. I just keep the vision in my mind of sitting on the front verandah of my finished house, drinking wine with friends, and looking out across the valley to the mountains beyond. It’s a vision that will have to sustain me through dealing with tradies, coming up with the finances, and feeling lonely at times. I can’t wait for that day when my friends and I toast the sunset on the deck of my newly completed home. Until then….it’s back to the build.